tv Piers Morgan Tonight CNN January 15, 2012 2:00am-3:00am PST
>> lenny kravitz exclusively for the hour, plus a never before seen look at lenny working on his new album. this is "piers morgan tonight." lenny kravitz may just be the coolest guy in america. he has sold 35 million records. he's won four grammys. among his huge hits "let love rule" and "american woman." he plays every instrument you can imagine. he's never slowed down. he's here now. you are just the epitome of cool, aren't you, lenny? just admit, get it out of the way. >> i don't know. >> the kind of guy we all would like to be, the kind of guy all our women would like us to be. >> i think you're doing pretty well, piers. i think you're doing pretty well. >> it's this huge presence. >> i'll play second to you in cool today. >> now you said it on the record. i just did my street cred. to be serious, i hope the answer is yes because it gives me some succor in this relationship we
have, is being so cool itself a terrible burden? >> i truly don't think about it. i think if you asked my daughter, i wouldn't be so cool. >> your daughter is cool. >> she's extremely cool, >> she's a cool rock chick. >> beautiful, smart, she's amazing. >> how could she not be given the product of her parents, two of the coolest people. >> okay, okay, i'll buy that one. >> coolness runs in the genes, doesn't it? >> a little bit. a little bit. >> so how do you attain coolness? how does someone like me, over all the many talents i probably don't have, coolness certainly isn't one of them. how do you effortlessly, without any effort, get to be cool? >> what would make you cool is the fact you don't try. >> i'm trying too hard? >> that's what's wonderful about people. when you're natural.
>> see, this is what i think. this is one of the coolest things i've ever seen and this is typical lenny kravitz. this is an album cover which in itself is cool these days, right? secondly, amazing picture on the front. when i turn it over and there is your life in these extraordinary pictures. >> yeah. >> and i just haven't seen an album cover or inside cover, anything quite like this. for the theme that you have of this black and white america, there it is. and there you are, lenny kravitz, the product of a black woman and a white man in america, raised in the upper east of new york. your dad was jewish. your mom christian. an almost unique perspective on life. >> i had an amazing childhood. i talked to a lot of people who didn't like their childhoods. they would not go back. they found it to be sad and painful.
i had the absolute opposite. i had a very rich childhood in the sense of experience. >> tell me about your parents. your mom was a famous actress. your dad was a television executive. tell me about them. >> my mother was born in miami, florida. her father came from the bahamas. she later moved to new york when the family moved to new york. she wanted to be an actress. and her father, my grandfather, was going to do whatever he had to do to give her the tools she needed. my father was born in brooklyn, new york. his father from the ukraine. my father went to the military at a very young age. he was a green beret. he was a jungle expert. he was pretty scary. when i was a child.
>> yes. tell me about the mixture of your mom and your dad then. your dad is this tough, hard core green beret. your mom, from what i'm gleaned, a softer character? >> yes. >> a little bit more creative, artistic, giving that you side of it. but the combination pretty fascinating for someone going into the entertainment business. >> yeah. >> and watching the way you took off, you have that strength of character your dad had to not take no for an answer to do things your way, to seize the moment, if you like. >> well, because of my father, and just to let you know, i love my father dearly and at the end of his life we became closer than ever. but it wasn't always that way. >> your parents divorced. how old were you? >> i was 21. >> that's a hard age.
you go it through this amazing upbringing. >> at that point you think, they've made it. but things happen. >> what effect did it have on you? >> it had a very deep effect on me. i was a mama's boy. i loved my mother. we were best friends, we were really, really close. and, you know, my father had his infidelities and so forth and they came out. they were quite deep, and i think she didn't know how to rebound from that. >> the relationship kind of exploded because it wasn't like she had seen this coming. >> i think, to be truthful, i think, you know, she knew the man. she knew who he was. apparently when i was a child my mother would have to go retrieve
him from other women's apartments. >> really? >> with me in her arms, like ringing the bell. >> with you in her arms? >> which always reminds me of that scene from "goodfellas." >> i know that scene. i was just thinking that. >> you know, he had his demons. and i think that his father was the same. i think he tried to escape that because on his deathbed all of this came out. >> to you? >> yes. it was difficult but my mother taught me that's your father. regardless of what he did to me, he's your father and you have to honor him. you have to love him. you have to respect him. she would always refer to the bible and say that it says honor thy mother, thy father. it doesn't say but, or, unless, if. it says honor them.
and so that's what you have to do. her thing was always you do what you are supposed to do. don't worry about everybody else. so i was taught to be that way. and so i took care of him. i saw him. i loved him. but there was always a plate of glass between us. >> an emotional barrier? >> yes. it was difficult. >> so when you had this time with him, when he knew he was dying, do you think because he realized he wasn't going to be around, this was the last chance to have that conversation with you? >> i think he honestly had a spiritual awakening because he -- and i don't want to paint him as this, you know, horrible man. if i ever bumped into anybody snz that knew him, oh, your father, he's so lovely, he's so charming. he's wonderful.
he was a wonderful man. >> there are many people who have this kind of emotional -- >> well, that had a lot to do with it because part of what he admitted to me when he was dying was that he was brainwashed in the military. he said i was brainwashed. i thought i had to be this way and i was so young and i was trained to be this way. and he said that it always felt like there was a monkey on his back and he couldn't get it off. >> what did he say to you when he finally opened up? >> he made mistakes. he wished it wasn't the way it was. he wished he could have changed it. he didn't know how. and he just admitted it and it was beautiful. from that moment on, he lived another maybe month. it was the best month of our lives and it made up for everything because it's one thing to have your father in front of you and see him and say, you know, hello and hug him and kiss him. whenever i would be close to him it always felt a little strange
like we'd hug and it would be uncomfortable. and after that experience in the hospital when everything came out and he explained himself, i could actually lay in the bed with him, i could rub his head, i could hold him, and it was beautiful. >> what an amazing thing. >> yeah. >> was your mother still alive? >> no, she wasn't. my mother's been gone for 17 some odd years. >> so she'd never knew that you had this amazing time with your father? >> no. >> how do you think she would have felt about that? >> wonderful. she loved him to the end. >> because she knew that side of him as well. >> yeah. >> she knew he had it in him. >> of course. and my life wouldn't be what it is without the two of them, without both side. i believe god puts things in front of you the way they need to be. it was all wonderful. it was all wonderful. i don't look back on it with any kind of animosity or ill feelings. it was the way it's supposed to
be. >> incredible story and come back. i want to talk more about black and white america. we have a black president in america. do you think america is more or less racist because of that? >> obama's black? >> obama's black? ♪ [ female announcer ] if whole grain isn't the first ingredient in your breakfast cereal, what is? now, in every box of general mills big g cereal, there's more whole grain than any other ingredient. that's why it's listed first on the side. from honey nut cheerios to cinnamon toast crunch to lucky charms, get more whole grain than any other ingredient... without question. just look for the white check. witmid gradetion. dark roast forest fresh full tank brain freeze cake donettes rolling hot dogs
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>> tom, it feels so good to disagree with them again. >> your mother in the classic tv series "the jeffersons." very interesting because in that she played half of a mixed race marriage. >> what are the chances of that, right? >> and she was in real life. >> i remember when she auditioned, she was at the time in a play on broadway called "the river niger" with the negro ensemble company and she got the call from norman leer. he had seen the play and she flew out to california to audition. she auditioned. he loved her. and he was getting ready to hire her. this is 1974. and so norman leer sat her down and said, look, i want you to play this part but, you know, are you going to be comfortable playing the wife of a white man? and she pulled out her wallet and had a picture of my dad and said, this is my husband. and he said, oh, great.
you've got the part. >> an amazing thing. very groundbreaking time. >> kids in school -- because my father was white, they assumed that was my father. >> confusing. >> yeah. >> what are your memories of that? was it very controversial at the time in the sense did it attract racists? did they try to protest about it? >> most definitely. my mother used to get hate mail, death threats. people couldn't deal with it. that was the first interracial kiss on primetime television and it was quite controversial. to me, no. it was completely natural. >> because you'd seen her with your dad. >> i grew up in a house i had no idea about racism or prejudice. no idea. >> did you get picked on at all once the tv show took off? >> yeah, but harmless. kids used to call me, you know, zebra or panda or my mother was
mrs. night and my father was mr. day. ridiculous things kids say but it never bothered me. >> obviously since barack obama became president there's been a big debate about whether they feel instinctively america has gotten more or less racist as a country. since the first black president. what do you think? >> it's funny because i've been in europe touring a lot lately. the first question they always ask because of this album, is racism over in america? what does that mean? they think it's over. are things better? are things great? yes. it's nothing like it was 40 years ago. but we still have a long way to go. what i think is interesting and what prompted the song "black
and white america" is i had seen a documentary. i don't know the name of it or what it was, but there was this group of americans saying this was not their america. they were not happy with what america had become. they wanted it to go back to what it was, say, 100 years ago. they had plans on assassinating the president, all this horrible stuff. and it's just amazing there are people still like that. but there's kind of a tug of war going on. in a lot of senses, because we've moved forward in so many ways that people would like it to go back. >> there's a line here i got from the notes in the album. martin luther king had a vision and that's a fact. he died so we could see this was his mission. don't look back. there is no division. don't you understand? very direct there. in 1963 my father married a black woman. when they walked the street they were in danger. and then it goes on, very personal, very poignant. i mean, my sense, i've been in
america the last six or seven years, what it did was highlight racism in a way that probably hadn't been since the '60s. it focused people's minds. and that in itself is not a bad thing even if it's painful in the short term. >> no. >> it brings it all out. >> i thought his speech on race when he talked about his upbringing, for me it was such a beautiful moment because there was a politician standing up there that understood exactly what i understood. both sides equally. and that was a beautiful moment because i thought he really laid it out. >> do you know obama? >> i don't know him. i spoke to him once on the telephone. >> i heard, and you can correct if it's wrong,that conversation the president said to you, i have a woman next to me who went to high school with you who says, tell lenny kravitz he's hotter now than he was in school. >> you have it verbatim.
so i want to know who you're talking to. that was exactly the conversation. >> the president rang and filled me in. >> i figured. >> so that was right? >> exactly. >> so who was the woman? it wasn't michelle. >> no, no, no. >> do you agree with that assessment? do you think you're hotter now than you were in high school? i called you cooler. >> again, this whole hot/cool thing, i really don't relate to it. >> let's take a little break while i cool down. i want to talk sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. enough of this political stuff. let's get stuck in the real stuff. ♪ like splenda® essentials™ no calorie sweeteners. this bowl of strawberries is loaded with vitamin c. and now, b vitamins to boot. coffee doesn't have fiber. unless you want it to. splenda® essentials™ are the first and only
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lenny kravitz in the studio ♪ lenny kravitz in the studio working on his latest album. it's a great album. >> thank you. >> really enjoyed listening to it. let's talk about women. you have something that women like. it's not just your musical ability. >> and what is that, piers? >> i don't know. but even my wife as i left today gave birth to our child ten days ago, said i will never leave you
for lenny kravitz. wasn't happy. but you have gotten this magnetic appeal to women. how do you feel? >> how do i feel? >> don't try and be too modest. >> no, no, no, i love women. i think that's the fact that i grew up around a lot of strong women. >> what did your mother tell you about women and how to treat them? >> well, to treat them with respect and so forth. yes. >> you're a single man at the moment. is it changing, that situation? is it near to changing? have you got anyone? >> i would like it to change. i think it's a good time for that to change. >> what is it you love about women? >> i just love women. they're incredible. they're -- i think they are god's most amazing creation.
>> are you easy to be with? >> am i easy to be with? >> you seem so effortlessly charming. most musicians are quite neurotic, difficult, edgy. it's the nature of the beast. >> i wouldn't say i'm the easiest person to deal with. i can be both. i can be very easy to be with and i can be difficult depending on what's going on. because my life is a bit crazy. moving around, a different country every day, long tours. it's not easy to build something. >> very hard for relationships. >> extremely, extremely. it's an occupational hazard. it's difficult. >> do you worry that some of your father's behavioral issues rubs off? >> completely. i'm completely aware of that. and it's something that i have
fought and that i consciously continue to fight and pretty much work my way through it. it took a long time. and i'll share something with you. i don't like to say it but i think you'll understand. when my parents split, my mother sat me down with my father and basically said, you know, your father is going to leave. this is what happened. blah, blah, blah. i already knew but she wanted to have this conversation with the three of us. and then she looked at him and said after she explained the whole scenario and he was getting ready to leave, his bags were at the door. and she looked at him and said, what do you have to say to your son? and he walked up to me and he looked me in my eye and he said,
"you'll do it, too," and he walked out. >> wow. >> that's quite deep. >> how old were you? >> 21. and i was a young 21. i was a young 21. i don't think i realized what that moment did until so many years later. >> what did it do? it put something in me. it was just bizarre. i think -- i think the reason that he said that was because his father had done exactly the same thing. and he had ill feelings towards his father because of what he did to his mother. so i think that he just thought this was just the way it was going to be. >> and was he right?
>> was he right? >> was there a moment for you when you did something and you thought, my father was right? >> oh, yeah. there were times where i did not behave properly. there were times i was not respectful. there were times i was just out on a limb. but i did let him know it was really detrimental. >> you've been out with some of the most famous women in the world, allegedly. >> mm-hmm. >> madonna, naomi campbell, the list is long and illustrious. all it's cracked up to be? famous sex symbols? >> people are people. everyone on your list i did not go out with, by the way. >> really? don't disappoint me now, come on. >> you know if you're walking down the street with somebody and they get a picture and it comes out in the paper, then
you're going out with them. but, yes, there have been -- there have been many and they have been wonderful experiences. >> you are 47 now. >> yes. >> i'm 46. >> you have to call me sir. >> you look about ten years younger than me. there are a few other things i'd like to call you actually. but do you dream wistfully of getting married, having more children, that kind of more kengal -- conventional thing that your mother dreamed of? >> i do. and i wanted it for some years, but i wasn't ready. and now i'm ready. now i'm ready. >> i'm told if i ask you who the great love of your life has been you would say lisa bonet. >> most definitely. >> the mother of your child. >> that was a magical experience. >> she is an incredibly beautiful woman, very smart. i'm a big, big fan of hers. what went wrong there? >> young. >> too young? >> young. a lot going on.
zoe was born, i got a record deal, i was on tour all at the same time. we were young. but the beautiful thing is that now we're best friends. she's like my sister. and i love the man she's with. i love her new children. we're all together, and it's great. but that was a very magical time. >> and how do you feel about your daughter now going into the business? and very successfully. she's a great actress. >> thank you, thank you. >> are you happy or concerned? >> i'm not concerned at all. >> great benefits to you. >> i'm concerned about her but i'm not concerned about her being in the business. >> you are a classic example of somebody who has had such a fabulously successful career and yet you can see the detriment of being a famous sex symbol and all the stuff that goes with big success in this kind of business.
it's not easy, is it? >> no, it's not easy. i think she is very grounded. at times i believe she is more grounded than i am. she is definitely smarter than i am. in a lot of cases. >> are you a good dad do you think? >> as my mother said, self-praise is no recommendation. you can ask zoe. i've enjoyed every moment of it. we're best friends. so i think that speaks for itself. >> if i was interviewing zoe about you, how would she describe you? >> i think she would say i'm extremely funny and goofy and the opposite of everything you said today about being cool and all that. >> really? what's the les memorably goofy thing you've done? i'll pin zoe down. how goofy does your dad get? >> you'll have to ask her. i'm ridiculous. >> let's take a little break. i want to talk about the move you made as a family from new york, upper east side, to
beverly hills to l.a. a big move to make when you're young. >> yes. ♪ ♪ i don't know why we go inside ♪ oking good! you've lost some weight. thanks! you noticed! you know these clothes are too big now, so i'm donating them. not going back there again. good for you! how'd you do it? eating right, whole grain. whole grain? whole grain. [ female announcer ] people who choose more whole grain tend to weigh less than those who don't... multigrain cheerios has five whole grains and 110 lightly sweetened calories per serving... more grains. less you! multigrain cheerios. no, i wouldn't use that single miles credit card.
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aren't you that guy from the black-eyed peas? you remember what i'm talking about? when you and fergie were out there doing the dances. >> would you like some cookies lenny kravitz? it has walnuts and butterscotch chips. >> i hate walnuts! >> so that's the goofy stuff. i'd forgotten. that was funny. absolutely hilarious. you've always laughed at yourself. >> of course. >> is that a key to survival in this ridiculous business? >> you have to laugh, baby. >> your family came to hollywood when you were how old? >> 11. >> 11. something different from new york. >> it was culture shock. >> completely different. >> completely. >> what was it like for you? >> i remember the first day it was quite strange. i'm coming from new york city.
i'm 11. at 11 years of age you're independent in new york, taking the train, taking the bus, hanging out with my friends, we're running the streets. you know everybody in the neighborhood. flew to l.a. we moved to santa monica. that was the first place we lived. i remember the first morning waking up and walking outside and there was nobody. there was nobody on the street. there was nobody walking. i didn't understand. where is everybody? your parents had to drive you somewhere. you couldn't just jump on the subway. it was really, really strange. everybody thought i spoke funny. i had a new york accent then. >> the one thing you have that many famous people these days do not have is you have got a lot of talent, genuine talent. not just the singing. on the first album you played many of the instruments on that. so you have got a huge, natural music ability. who are the most naturally gifted artists you've
encountered in your lifetime? >> so many. i mean, starting with duke ellington who i knew as a child. miles davis. michael jackson who i worked with. prince. robert plant, led zeppelin, stevie wonder, marvin -- i can go on and on and on. it's long. >> what do they have that makes them a star? because you can be a great artist without being a star. >> that's true. >> what's the extra dimension that turned those people -- >> it's that thing. >> what is it? >> you can't really name it. >> can you describe it? >> it's just that thing, something special. that spark. >> when did you realize you had it, the whole package, the ability to take the talent and the artistry and be a star? what was the moment for you? >> i don't know if i've even come to that moment yet. >> well, 35 million albums isn't bad. >> i'm very hard on myself.
>> you don't think you're a star? >> somehow i'm always still that kid trying to get the record deal. very strange. >> is that insecurity or is it hard work? >> i put myself up against the greatest people, the people i mentioned, the people that influenced me that are amazing. that's what i'm weighing myself against. i think that i'm beginning to get there. and i think my best work is yet to come. >> let's take another break. i want to talk about what is the single most fascinating thing about you. you went to school with slash from guns n roses. >> yes, i did. >> who is a fascinating guy. let's talk about him after the break. ♪
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went to school together. >> we went to beverly hills high. >> not far from the studio. >> right. >> what was he like? >> he was very much like he is now. >> you actually look quite similar. >> we could be family. >> you could be brothers. >> you do. he has the same nose rings and the same kind of stubble. he's cool, too. >> he's a beautiful person. what you see is what you get. he's honest. he's loving. >> two immediate questions spring to mind. >> okay. >> who has more tattoos? >> i don't know. i don't know what he's got now. maybe we're about the same. >> you have a whopping jesus christ on your back, right? >> not actually, the words and then i have japanese tattoos and all kinds of things. >> how many do you have? >> i can't even count. >> he's loaded. i've seen some of them. >> have you? >> not all of them. >> and the other thing, i
suppose, you said you've gone 20 years on marijuana, so who has taken more drugs, you or slash? >> i don't know. that would be some stiff competition. i don't know. >> does it help the creative process? sergeant pepper was made entirely on lsd, one of the greatest albums of all times. >> of course. >> is the drugs process something musicians go through, tangibly better for creative music making? >> i suppose at the time i thought it was. what i realized later was that i was just sort of protecting myself. i would just smoke weed all day and all night. i would wake up, yawn, and light the joint. >> just do it all day long. >> all day long. in fact, even at one point i had a guy on staff whose job was to roll joints. >> all day long? >> all day long.
all day long. >> joint roller. >> all day long. >> what a great job. >> and he got to get high, too. and then i would go to bed and put the joint out and fall asleep. it was all day long. >> and what does that do to you over time? >> well, it just basically puts this wall of fuzz around you. but i realized that, you know, i was trying to protect myself from something and i was keeping things out and then when i stopped, real life all of a sudden was so psychedelic and so -- i don't even know. it was weird for a long while because i hadn't felt that. >> are you pretty clean these days? >> oh, yeah, yeah. >> do you ever go recklessly partying? >> not really. not really. i have good fun. good fun. >> you're into french bordeaux. >> yes. >> that's my favorite stuff.
>> all right. you're a bit of a connoisseur. >> when you come to paris, we'll go in the cellar. >> what have you got in there? >> i have some stuff. >> '61? >> of course. >> wow, really? >> of course. >> i'm coming to your place in paris. let's take another break for the final segment. i want to talk to you about your other career. you have a movie out. not content with being cool and a singer and a musician, you make movies. god, i hate you. good thing you've got the wine. ♪ i'm always looking out for small ways to be more healthy. like splenda® essentials™ no calorie sweeteners. this bowl of strawberries is loaded with vitamin c. and now, b vitamins to boot. coffee doesn't have fiber. unless you want it to. splenda® essentials™ are the first and only
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i am a male nurse. i am nurse john mcfadden. >> are you married? >> shut up. you got a girlfriend? >> no. i got to go. i got to go. that's all right. that's all right. >> hey. can i get a kiss, too. >> good afternoon, ladies. >> by nurse john. >> lenny kravitz in 2009's "precious" powerful movie. >> that was a beautiful experience. >> powerful. do you like the process of making movies, because i would imagine for someone from the world of music it's a -- must be laborious. >> well, it is. in the sense i just did "hunger games" and i was in north carolina for a month and you know with music you get on stage, you do it you're in the studio, you do it. and it was a lot of waiting in the trailer, you know?
>> boring. >> but you know, it was -- it was great. when you're doing the scenes, it felt -- it felt really good. most of my scenes were with jennifer lawrence who is wonderful. >> tell me about "hunger games." >> well, obviously it's a trilogy of books by suzanne collins. you know, it's about this other world and where they take the kids that live in all of these different districts that are left to an arena, which is like you know a world, forests and so forth, and they fight until one is left. and i play a character called cinna who is the stylist. >> of all of the things that you've experienced in your extraordinary career and life, if i can give you five minutes to replay one of them again,
what would it be? what's been the most magical? forget women or children or births or a child, obviously, that's different. but what's the career moment where if you had the chance, you'd relive it? >> career moment. wow. you know, i -- i've had so many where i had to pinch myself. >> what was the biggest pinch? >> being -- probably producing michael jackson and there's been a lot of great ones, but that was something extraordinary. >> what made it so extraordinary? >> well, the fact that, you know, i wouldn't be here today if i hadn't seen the jackson five when i was 6 years old. that was the first concert that i had ever been to. my father took me to madison square guard tonight see them and it changed everything. the universe was a different place the next day. i was completely blown away by the music, the talent, the whole
experience. and here i am in the studio, i had written a song for michael and he's standing there, telling me to be very hard on him, i want to do this exactly the way you see it, so stop me every time it's not the way you want it and so forth and we're just get into it, we're working together, and we ended up spending you know a week together in the studio. it was just unbelievable. >> what kind of man was he, for real? >> i thought that he -- first of all, was just a beautiful being. extremely professional. a perfectionist. still having the passion all those years later, you know? he would stay, work all day and night, come back the next day, all day and night. he hadn't lost that. a great father. he was amazing with his children. i spend time with the kids.
we were all in the studio. we would all hang out together. he was a very good father. and he was funny. very funny. >> great sense of humor. >> we laughed all the time. and he could eat. more than you think. >> really? he had all of the energy to burn off, all of the dancing. >> yeah. >> incredible talent. >> the greatest ever. i would agree with that. >> how did you feel when you heard what happened to him? and there's sort of mixed thoughts from people that knew him well, there was a kind of inevitability the way his life was going and for somebody like michael jackson, not to sound callus, but actually not getting old may have been something that wouldn't have been his worst nightmare. >> it was interesting, i heard you speaking to jane fonda about that, she had spoken about that. i mean i was obviously devastated. i was blown away. i found out on stage in scotland as i was coming off and getting ready to go back on for an
encore and they told me and i had to go back out. i mean i -- it's -- it's extremely sad. i mean i -- i was really looking forward to seeing him come back and do those shows even though i knew, like, wow, 50 shows, that's -- that's really serious. >> i mean is his legacy going to be, of our lifetime, you get the older generation saying sammy davis, one of the greatest entertainer of that era, whatever, did you think of our lifetime, michael jackson was the best? >> of course. you can't touch it. >> the greatest naturally gifted, as you said earlier? >> yes. >> entertainer of them all? >> yes, completely. i think people -- people think about michael jackson and his solo career, obviously phenomenal. but the deepest genius i saw him in was when he was a child. i think that he was -- he was a child and he sang with the